In Conversation with

Ottalie Stride of Albion Nord

Words by LUCY SIDDALL

Discover the beautiful narrative of antique furniture and its comforting role in making a house a home.

Creative Director Ottalie Stride is versed in the language of design. Following a rigorous and educational few years at a high-end residential developer in London, the four Albion Nord founders embarked on their own interior and architecture journey as business owners in their own right. Before this, Stride grew up immersed in the world of antiques via her family’s auction house, Stride & Son. The endless summers spent scouring sales rooms and cataloguing her parents' finds honed her eye for vintage, historical, and relevant antiques for today's design world. Maintaining this appreciation throughout her early career ensured her interiors remained elegant, soulful and unique. It was, therefore, a natural step for Albion Nord to add ‘Our Shop’, a collection of hand-picked antiques, to their website.

The Condo: You write on your website that ‘beautiful places are those with soul,’ can you describe what a home with soul is?

Ottalie Stride: This phrase encapsulates everything we do. ‘Soul’ in a home is about capturing the essence and charisma of a client within a particular space. Homes should reflect those who live in them and act as an extension of the world as they see it. I think there is great value in achieving that as a designer. A home with ‘soul’ is a space enriched with antique pieces that create a certain patina and, when layered together meaningfully, create a beautiful narrative with their presence.

TC: How would you describe the Albion Nord aesthetic?

OS: Our style is rooted in classicism, but we have quite a young team, and that youthful nature ensures a fresh and contemporary element in all our projects. We love antiques and have a rich knowledge of what they are. Still, the younger generations that join our team bring a fantastic appreciation of the contemporary, and marrying the two creates a wonderful end product. We seek to create a ‘sense of space’ in our projects so the interiors respond sympathetically to the architecture of the building and the surrounding area, as well as the clients living there. Comfort, a key consideration for us, is also always at the heart of a home. In our eyes, it is the ultimate luxury.

“It’s about the soul, the uniqueness and the character of the item, and, of course, the quality.”

TC: What role do antiques play in a sustainably-minded world?

OS: More and more of our clients are saying they don’t want what they’ve already seen, and whilst it is tough to keep being original, it makes us better designers. With antiques, we can ensure our projects stay new and contemporary while maintaining an element of sustainability. I love that the pieces we select are often hundreds of years old yet stand the test of time because they were so well made and painstakingly crafted. Balancing old and new adds soul, texture and depth to a home and minimises the presence of mass-produced products that are detrimental to the environment.

TC: What led to the creation of the Albion Nord digital atelier Our Shop?

OS: Antiques have been at the heart of what we do as designers since we formed Albion Nord. When we were initially establishing the company, the shop was very much a part of the discussion, so it has been bubbling since our infancy. Extending this part of our work to a broader audience has always appealed to us. We also got to the point where it didn’t make sense to constantly turn away from unmissable pieces we saw simply because they were not part of the brief we were currently working on. So, we decided to create our own inventory.

TC: Where do you shop for the antiques you sell and use in your projects?

OS: We are always at the IACF fairs that run up and down the country. Alfie’s Antiques often has a great selection of pieces along with Dorian Caffot DeFawes, Foster and Gane, Nick Jones and Modernity in London. Internationally, we spend a lot of time in Paris at antique fairs and flea markets. We are also regularly in Belgium, The Netherlands and Italy. We have a handful of dealers with whom we work closely and have built great relationships. We’ve found that shopping in Europe and bringing items back to the UK ourselves creates a significant saving for our clients as we cut out the middleman, which is excellent. We also buy a lot at auction, so we spend time scouring websites and buying things from across the world and then having them restored or reupholstered here to suit the piece, client or project. The Saleroom is probably the one we use the most.

TC: Is there anything you need to be wary of when buying antiques online?

OS: I always recommend asking for a condition report. However, if you are buying from an auction house or reputable dealer, they should provide one. Otherwise, try to see the item in real life, especially if it is of high value. Check for woodworm. Assess if there is any rusting, or if it’s marble, check that there are no unexpected chips. Asking the vendor for detailed photos is crucial.

TC: How do you find the unmissable gems when you shop?

OS: I look for unique pieces that stand out to me. If you walk away from something and are still thinking about it, or if someone were to buy it and you’d be annoyed you didn’t have it, you should get it. It’s about the soul, the uniqueness and the character of the item, and, of course, the quality. If made from wood, check that it doesn’t have woodworm, or if it’s got legs, make sure they’re not falling off. If I’m shopping for a client, I try to ensure it’s by a renowned manufacturer or maker. A basic knowledge of pieces that will hold their value is also essential. If you’re buying from an investment point of view, there are things to look out for, too. Items in pairs hold their value more effectively, for example. A trick of the trade is to look beyond what you initially see and past any horrendous but superficial negatives. Something might be a horrible colour, but if it's structurally sound, the result could be stunning once you strip it back to its original state.

TC: If someone is new to antique shopping, where and how might they start?

OS: Start at a fair. Somewhere like Ardingly, Newark Antique Fair, or Kempton Antiques Market, and have a little rummage around. You learn a lot from walking around, noticing what grabs your attention, and speaking to the vendors. They will tell you the provenance of each piece, where it was built or what century it’s from, so it can be very educational. There is no pressure or judgment, and there isn’t anything to lose, but you will start to hone your eye and see what makes you tick. The pieces are not usually of exceptionally high value, so they won't break the bank even if you make a punt and buy something you change your mind on. However, you might also be pleasantly surprised.

“There is something comforting and charming about antiques. They melt into the background in an innately special way – they add character and soul without shouting about it.”

TC: Are there any items of furniture you think work particularly well as antiques?

OS: A chest of drawers always works very well, and you can often pick them up for next to nothing, as well as side tables. You might find something wooden and extraordinary with bobbin legs or a cricket table which is textured and beautiful. Lamps are really usable and you can pick up some great designs. But don’t be put off by a lampshade; people often overlook stunning lamps because of the lampshade when they are straightforward to replace. An old antique lamp base looks modern and fresh with a contemporary shade.

TC: The Condo, at its heart, is about exploring the endless facets that make a house a home. How might our readers use antiques with this in mind?

OS: There is something comforting and charming about antiques. They melt into the background in an innately special way – they add character and soul without shouting about it. The other fantastic thing about antiques is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what century they are from. The pieces can span eras, yet they work exceptionally well together. Whether a little side table next to an armchair or a beautiful old chest of drawers that cost £40 at a market, paired with a contemporary print in a crisp frame. If you can master the balance between old and new, the juxtaposition makes each piece sing—the contrast between historic and modern works exceptionally well aesthetically.

To learn more about Albion Nord’s work or to shop their collection, visit Albion-Nord.com.

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